May 15, 2014, was a Thursday. At a construction site on 29th Street in Manhattan, a bucket of mortar fell and struck a worker on the shoulder. A different worker at another site fell four feet when he missed a step on a ladder. Another ladder mishap across the East River on Hoyt Avenue in Queens saw a construction worker fall five feet. A fourth incident on 50th Avenue in Queens was the scariest: A worker feels a story and a half onto a roof. But all four of the workers were taken to the hospital.
New Yorkers witness every day the creation of the new New York. It's downright strange to make it to work or school in the morning without hearing a jackhammer or seeing a tower crane or transit mixer in operation. But the daily dangers of construction work are not something most New Yorkers think about, perhaps because the sight of hardhats and orange construction fencing is so common it's faded into the background of the city.
There were 231 construction accidents in the five boroughs in 2014, up from 186 in 2013, leading to 237 injuries and 8 deaths. One might think that the big, noisy equipment—jackhammers, front loaders and the like—would be the dangerous thing about construction. But as was the case last May 15, gravity is the chief peril: According to the city Department of Buildings, 39 percent of accidents in 2014 were caused by workers falling while another 25 percent involved stuff falling onto workers.
A City Council committee recently held a hearing on whether DOB was implementing recommendations from a 2008 safety panel; DOB and the city comptroller have disagreed about the extent to which the agency has complied with the panel's suggestions.
But one thing that's not debatable is that DOB tracks worksite accidents and provides fairly detailed data on them to the public. The agency's annual report on accidents gives you a day by day sense of the physical price paid—sometimes in very minor ways, but often with real consequences—at construction sites around the city. It's worth a read if only to better understand what's at play behind the orange netting and jersey barriers you pass on the walk home.
Here is the story told by December's reports:
12/1/2014: A worker struck his knee when he miss-stepped and fell while descending the stairs. The worker was examined by a doctor and went back to work.
12/2/2014: A worker ran over his own foot while moving a concrete washout box. The worker was treated at a local medical center and released. No DOB action was necessary.
12/4/2014: A concrete worker fell approximately twelve feet onto the railroad tracks below. The worker was working on the crash wall separating the Amtrak Rail Road from the foundation of a new building and was wearing a safety harness but was not tied off. The worker suffered multiple fractures and was taken to the hospital.
12/4/2014: Two electricians were pulling cables for securing cameras when one of the electricians stepped onto the sheetrock ceiling of the loading dock below and fell approximately fourteen feet. The electrician sustained unknown injuries. The security cameras were unrelated to the construction sites at the location. No DOB action was necessary.
12/5/2014: A concrete worker injured his foot when he lost control of the sheet he was passing to another worker. The worker was taken to the hospital. No DOB action was necessary.
12/6/2014: A worker was fatally injured when he fell while descending a ladder from the second floor to the first floor. ECB Violation.
12/6/2014: A pedestrian tripped and fell while crossing a small pedestrian bridge, approximately six to seven inches high with a handrail, provided as a walkway over a concrete hose laid on the sidewalk. The DOB inspector observed no tripping hazards on the secured bridge. The pedestrian was taken to the hospital.
12/8/2014: A worker slipped and fell approximately six feet when he attempted to adjust his hat while climbing a ladder.
12/8/2014: A construction worker suffered burns while working with a torch and was transported to by EMS. FDNY requested DOB conduct an inspection. No DOB action was necessary.
12/9/2014: A worker suffered lacerations to the nose and face when struck by a restore while stripping forms. The worker was treated and released from the hospital. DOB issued violations and stop-work order. ECB Violation.
12/10/2014: A worker was struck in the back by a Docker 350 jack that the injured worker and another worker shifted to make room for the end cap they were installing. The injured worker was transported to the hospital. No DOB action was necessary.
12/11/2014: During the dismantling of the hoist, a bolt fell striking a worker below. The worker was treated locally. DOB issued a violation and stop-work order. ECB Violation.
12/11/2014: A worker injured his back while unloading a truck. An ambulance was called.
12/12/2014: The Site Safety Manager reported to DOB that a worker injured his arm while chipping concrete. EMS was called.
12/15/2014: The Site Safety Manager reported to DOB that a worker fell approximately two feet from a Baker scaffold when he felt dizzy and fainted.
12/15/2014: The Site Safety Manager reported to DOB that a security guard injured his knee when he tripped and fell while conducting his rounds. The security guard was taken to the hospital for observation.
12/17/2014: A worker for the Amtrak portion of the job was chipping rock and was struck by a piece of rock. EMS was called. No DOB action was necessary.
12/17/2014: An electrician sustained a laceration to his shoulder from a piece of a metal stud when he attempted to turn around in the small closet where he was installing an electrical conduit. The electrician was taken to the hospital by ambulance. DOB issued a violation. ECB Violation
12/18/2014: A worker was injured when struck by a bag filled with asbestos debris. Workers on the roof were loading a hoist bucket when one of the bags fell, striking the worker. DOB issued a violation and stop-work order. ECB Violation
12/20/2014: A worker was struck in the head by a beam used to hold formwork during stripping operation. The worker was taken to the hospital. DOB issued a violation and stop-work order.
12/23/2014: The Site Safety Manager Reported to DOB that a worker was struck in the foot by a beam while using a jackhammer. EMS was called. Other Construction Related Incidents
12/23/2014: The Site Safety Manager reported to DOB that a panel fell on a worker's leg while the worker was stripping forms. EMS was called.
12/26/2014: A worker was fatally injured when he fell from the scaffold deck or the access ladder. The scaffold deck had rails around the perimeter, and the access to the ladder was protected by a hinged trap door of 3/4 inch plywood. The worker had his 10 hour OSHA and 16-hour user card.